What is accreditation for early childhood programs?

Early childhood program accreditation means that:

• An early childhood program--child care center, preschool, kindergarten, or before- and/or after-school program--voluntarily applied for accreditation by the Naional Academy of Early Childhood Programs. The program then engaged in an extensive self-study based on the Academy's Criteria for High Quality Early Childhood Program. The accuracy of the program's self-study was verified during a site visit to the program by a team of trained validators. The validated self-stud, including the program director's responses to the validation visit, was reviewed by a 3-member national commission composed of recognized experts in child care and early childhood education, judged to be in substantial compliance with the Academy's Criteria, and granted accreditation for a five -year period. 

• The early childhood program agrees to act upon the commission's suggestions regarding areas needing improvement, if any, and to submit annual written reports documenting improvements and continued compliance.


Why choose an NAEYC-accredited program?

· NAEYC-accredited programs have demonstrated a commitment to providing a high quality program for young children and their families. While the NAEYC accreditation process examines the total program, greatest emphasis is placed on the quality of interactions among staff and children and the developmental appropriateness of the curriculum. Health and safety, staffing, staff qualifications, physical environment, and administration are all reviewed during accreditation, but primary consideration is given to the nature of the child's experience.

· Whether your interest in early childhood programs is as a parent seeking a program for your child or as an employer looking to support your employees' child care needs, accreditation helps you identify high quality programs. High quality is important for children and families so parents can be reassured that their children are in good hands. And, what's good for families is also good for business and communities. In short, high quality early childhood programs benefit us all!


What are the characteristics of high quality?

There are a number of characteristics associated with high quality programs. Based on the Academy's Criteria, here are some things to consider as you visit programs:

1. Are the children in the program generally comfortable, relaxed, happy, and involved in play and other activities?
Happy, relaxed children who are enjoying themselves as they play and learn is one of the best signs of a good program. See if there is an ample variety of materials for children of this age group. Would your child enjoy this setting?

2. Are there sufficient numbers of adults with specialized training in early childhood development and education?
The younger the child, the more individualized attention is needed. The Academy's Criteria recommend that all groups have at least two teachers. Infants should be in groups of no more than 6 to 8 children; 2- to 3-year-olds should be in groups of 10 to 14 children; and 4- to 5-year-olds should be in groups of 16 to 20 children . Specialized training in child development and early education helps assure that staff understand how children grow and learn so they can be more effective teachers and caregivers.

3. Do adult expectations vary appropriately for children of differing ages and interests?
Groups for infants and toddlers will look quite different from groups for older children. Toys and materials should vary by age as should teachers' expectations for children. In addition, teachers and caregivers should recognize and respect individual differences in children's abilities, interests, and preferences.

4. Are all areas of a child's development  is stressed equally, with time and attention being devoted to cognitive development, social and emotional development, and physical development? High quality early childhood programs do much more than help children learn numbers, shapes, and colors. Good programs help children learn how to learn: to question why and discover alternative answers; to get along with others; and to use their developing language, thinking, and motor skills.

5. Do the staff meet regularly to plan and evaluate the program? Planning should reflect a balance of activities between vigorous outdoor play and quiet indoor play. Activities should allow ample time for children to work and play individually or in small groups, with the focus on activities that are child initiated as opposed to teacher directed. Flexibility, however, is also key. Staff should be willing to adjust the daily activities to meet children's individual needs and interests.

6. Are parents welcome to observe, discuss policies, make suggestions, and participate in the work of the program? Close communication between parents and staff is vital. Staff should regularly discuss highlights of the child's experiences with parents and show respect for families of varying cultures and backgrounds.

Child Development Associates, Inc. Corporate Office: 180 Otay lakes Road, Bonita, Ca 91902,  619-427-4411; fax 619-434-5323